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Media Remarks by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane Following Meeting with Ambassadors and High Commissioners from African Countries Accredited to South Africa in the Aftermath of Attacks Against Foreign Nationals in Parts of the Country

17 April 2015

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media;

We invited members of the diplomatic community accredited to South Africa, in particular African Heads of Mission, to assure them of our Government’s commitment to maintaining peaceful co-existence between South African citizens and others nationals who live in South Africa.

We said to the African Heads of Mission that the violent attacks against foreign nationals in some parts of the provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng are despicable and that the South African Government condemns them in the strongest terms possible.

As directed by President Zuma, the Government is implementing a series of measures aimed at bringing an immediate halt to all the violence, looting and displacement of individuals and families.

We took the African diplomatic corps into confidence on the practical measures that are being taken by the security agencies to bring to justice those who are responsible for the violence and related criminal acts.

In the new Constitution of our free and democratic South Africa, we made a promise to ourselves and to the world that we would remain committed to the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism, non-sexism and the rule of law.

Furthermore, at the core of our foreign policy is the commitment we have made to the world that we will always prioritize Africa in all our endeavours because we are an integral part of the African continent. 

South Africa’s transition to democracy was one of the world’s most iconic testimonies of tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

It is therefore with a deep sense of pain and regret that we as the South African Government humbled ourselves before the African diplomatic community in our meeting with them today; and we expressed, through them, our heartfelt apologies to the African continent and people for the actions of those of our citizens who have behaved in a shameful manner.

The South African Government will also do everything within its power to ensure the safety of all citizens and foreign nationals irrespective of their status. South Africa is a multicultural society that welcomes and promotes interaction among people of different backgrounds. 

As you may be aware, South Africa is a signatory to various international obligations that protect foreign nationals and refugees, including the Geneva Protocol on Refugees. As a signatory to this Protocol, and as a country that cherishes human rights, we have to protect the basic rights of every human being within our borders, including foreign nationals.

President Jacob Zuma has on a number of occasions provided his leadership on this matter by publicly condemning the unwarranted violent attacks on foreign nationals, the looting of their business premises and appealed for calm and tolerance across the country.

The President has also directed the Security Cluster and the Economic Cluster Ministers to undertake a number of practical steps, including measures announced in Parliament yesterday, to prevent further attacks and devise ways of maintaining long-term peace and stability in the relations between South African citizens and migrants from fellow African countries.

Government is encouraged by the united stance against the violent attacks against foreign nationals by ordinary South Africans, as well as political parties, the faith-based community and other non-state actors.

South Africa will not forget the hospitality and support we received from fellow Africans during the difficult times of our anti-apartheid liberation struggle. During this, time it was Africa that opened its doors and became home for many South Africans who fled the persecution of the apartheid government.

It is in this regard that South Africa has since the advent of democratic governance in 1994, worked cordially with fellow African countries to consolidate bilateral relations that are flourishing politically, economically and socially.

Ubuntu is the central concept of social and political organisation in the African global outlook, consisting of the principles of sharing and caring for one another. This is better captured in the Sepedi adage Motho ke motho ka batho, which means, generally speaking, that to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and establish mutually respectful relations with them.

As I conclude, let me reiterate the commitment of the South African Government, working in partnership with sister African states and people to address underlying causes of this recurring challenge in our society with a view of seeking sustainable long-term solutions.

Thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION